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Fake social media profiles on the rise

13 July 2017

Are you sure your online friends are who they say they are? Fake social media profiles expose users to serious threats including identity theft, exposure to scams and having your information used to exploit you.


Learn how you can protect yourself against fake profiles.

Driven by a market to buy 'likes', there is a growing industry where relatively small organisations dubbed 'click farms' can churn out thousands of fake profiles every week.

In June 2017, police raided a click farm in Thailand and we got a glimpse into this underground trade, where over 450 smart phones and over 300 000 sim cards were discovered. The creation of fake social media profiles (or buying ‘likes’) is now an industry worth over $700 million.

Twitter estimates that approximately 8% of its profiles are fake. Weeding out fake profiles isn't easy, as they appear very real and are difficult to identify—spelling an endless challenge for platforms and users alike.

Fake profiles need legitimate connections to look real, so be very wary of accepting any connection request if you do not know them.

While many fake profiles are based on fake identities, there is also the risk of identity theft. Someone can pose as your friend and create a new account in their name. Double check any unexpected friend requests—especially if you thought you were already friends.

What’s the risk?

Fake social media profiles undermine the very fabric of social media. It brings into question many social media interactions and influences the content you see.

If you befriend a fake profile, you have exposed your connections, pictures, activities and personal details to potentially malicious organisations.

This information can be used to target you for sophisticated scams and identity theft—remember that your connections can put your family and friends at risk as well.

Protect yourself against fake profiles

Your information, your connections and your daily life is worth protecting from fake profiles. There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself when using social media:

  • Take the time to read and understand the social network site's terms and conditions and privacy policy.
  • Familiarise yourself with the site’s privacy and security settings—make sure you’re only sharing your information with the people you want to share it with.
  • Protect your social media accounts with strong passwords and two factor authentication.
  • Only approve legitimate connection requestions—have you met them in person? Are you confident this is not a fraudulent account?
  • Use the same caution with clicking on advertisements and online shopping on social media platforms that you do elsewhere. Just because a post appears in your feed and has been 'suggested for you' doesn't mean the retailer is legitimate. Learn how to shop safely online.
  • Be particularly careful with information that could compromise the security of you and others, including:
    • dates of birth
    • addresses
    • information about your daily routine
    • holiday plans
    • your child's school.

Read more about socialising online.

Footnote: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/10/nearly-48-million-twitter-accounts-could-...